"Well, Da should get here soon enough," Rearden remarked as he sat aboard Diarmuid. With his maroon shirt unbuttoned at the collar and sleeves rolled up, the sun warmed his skin. "Kid, mind passing me that brown Stetson I left on the post?"

Ethan did as he was asked with a scowl. "I can't see why you need me to herd sheep with you."

"So you can learn how to do it for when I do need you to herd sheep with me," Gavin answered as he emerged from the barn with his own fawn Stetson. "Ethan, get on Diarmuid with Rearden. Abby, you will be with me on Calista here."

The mare tossed her elegant head from where she stood at the hitching post. Abby smiled and stood beside her.

"All right," Rearden dropped down from Diarmuid and waved Ethan closer. When the boy reluctantly arrived, he hoisted him into the saddle and swung up behind. "So, are you two enjoying school?"

Ethan remained silent as Gavin raised Abby up to the saddle. "Yes," she answered as she adjusted her checkered sundress. "But we were scared the first day."

Rearden chuckled. "You know what I did to your Da on our first day of school?"

"What?" Ethan asked, squinting up at him.

"They don't need to hear that story, Rearden," Gavin admonished as he mounted Calista behind Abby and steered the flea-bitten mare nearer to them. But Rearden smirked in his direction.

"Gavin was attempting to impress a young lady not much older than yourselves by scavenging for the most pristine scarlet pimpernel he could get. So, before he presented it to her, I dusted his knickers with itching powder to divert his attention."

"And if you ever do that," Gavin warned as the children dissolved into giggles, "You will have to take on some of my chores as well as your own the entire month."

Rearden sneaked a glance at his brother with a spark in his eye. "We should warm up the horses before Da gets here on Ray."

"That's right," Gavin said abruptly as he asked Calista to stride in the direction of the path. Rearden murmured to Ethan that he should hold on and sent Diarmuid into a lope to catch up with the mare.